Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Erin go braugh, me lassies and laddies. Tis time for a wee muffin, perhaps with a cuppa tea? So fire up the oven, you'll be sittin' down in no time, happy to bite into a hot bit of bread with just a touch tad of caraway but plenty-for-sure, of dried fruit.

My vote for the biggest cookware scam in recent history: silicone. How many of us rushed out to buy crayon-colored sets of those rubber-like Bundt pans, muffin trays and then – after a few disappointing tries – sent them off to Goodwill? All that promise, all our money, what a waste.

So here’s my own list of silicone duds, along with the only two pieces of silicone left in my kitchen which, surprise, I really love.

Silicone baking pans – They’re hard to clean, slow to dry and awkward to store. They need a baking sheet underneath for support, complicating baking times. DUD.

Silicone spatulas – They resist heat, sure. But they have no bend and so are incapable of performing their primary function, scraping the bowls. Skip the silicone, give me the old-time Rubbermaid spatulas. DUD.

Silicone oven mitts – Again, these fat gloves have no give and thus are dangerous for grasping hot pots and pans. DUD.

Silicone trivets – Okay, these work fine but so do a dozen other products that are more attractive. DUD.

Silicone baking mats – These are expensive and you still need a cookie sheet below. But I do love the Roul'Pat for making pie crust and at least a silicone baking mat is reusable which parchment is not. SEMI-DUD.

Silicone pastry brushes – Yay, finally a winner! Throw away the brushes that leave bristles behind when brushing hot crusts with butter, marinating meat. Plus – they clean beautifully in the dishwasher so there’s no question about cross-contamination between meat and other foods. HIT!

My latest favorites are silicone muffin and cupcake liners, used to bake the Irish Soda Bread Muffins. There’s no need to butter them, saving a step and calories. Better still, perfect muffins and cupcakes turn out of the liners every time. Mine came in green, orange and red from the grocery store but here's an online source. HIT!

What’s your experience? Which silicone products are duds and hits in your kitchen? Which do you recommend to Kitchen Parade readers?

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences.
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Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Makes 12 muffins
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring
  • 3/4 cup 100% White Whole Wheat Flour, preferably King Arthur, fluffed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground caraway (enough for subtle caraway flavor)
  • 1-1/2 cups dried fruit (currants, cranberries, apricots, golden raisins), larger pieces cut small
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (see TIPS)
  • Demerera sugar for topping (see TIPS)

Preheat oven to 400F. If using silicone liners, drop into a muffin tin. If using muffin tins, grease the cups or line with papers.

In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (that’s the flours, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and caraway) and the dried fruit.

In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave in 10-second increments. While it melts, in a large bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk, then whisk in the melted butter. With just a few quick stirs, turn the flour mixture into the wet mixture. The dough will be quite stiff.

With two spoons, one to scoop and one to scrape, fill the muffin cups. Gently sprinkle the sugar over the tops. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then either dig in! or turn out onto a rack to finish cooling. Best served warm or on the first day but still quite moist on the second and third days. After that, you may want to ‘toast’ the muffin halves in a toaster oven or skillet.

ALANNA's TIPS The inspiring recipe says that buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream can be used. The sugar topping is optional but provides a burst of sweetness and a slight crunch, both welcome. It’s a lot, a whole cup and a half of dried fruit. I was tempted to cut back to a cup or less but was glad I didn’t. If you choose to use less fruit, consider adding more sugar.
NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Muffin: 156Cal; 6g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 33mg Cholesterol; 272mg Sodium; 22g Carb; 1g Fiber; 13g Sugar; 3g Protein; Weight Watchers 3 points
Adapted from Bakers’ Banter, the baking blog from King Arthur Flour

More Recipes for St. Patrick's Day

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Caraway Corned Beef Emerald Isle Stew Whole Wheat Soda Bread

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Great photo! These muffins look delicious. I agree about the silicone too; silicone pastry brushes and cupcake cups are the only two silicone things I really love. The other, duds indeed.
I totally agree with you on the silicone merits, with one exception: the silicone brush. I had one that lasted, maybe, three bastings before the bristles broke off. I vowed I'd never get another one, but someone gave me one for Christmas a few years ago, and it works perfectly! So, it must be of a better quality. Also, I *love* the muffin liner idea. No more paper - yay!
I agree about the silicone, too, except that I love the spatulas. I use them day after day.

I don't like the pastry brushes because they always picked up too much of whatever I was trying to brush. I went back to a standard pastry brush. Somehow I managed to avoid the rest of the silicone stuff.
Ahhh, soda bread. I don't know why I don't make it all year long. It's always a great hit around here.

On the silicone, my silicone brush is pretty ok, for all the reasons you mention, Alanna. I have 3 mini-loaf pans I use to make paté - they've held up pretty well but since they are floppy they don't keep the straight sides I want the way metal mold would. The only reason I got them was that the day I wanted mini-loaf pans these were the only ones I could find. Mostly they're on the shelf.

I agree with Kalyn, BTW, about the pic!
The only silicone product I like are the spatulas -- in fact, I love them. As for muffin cups I like the standard paper liner set in the metal pan. No buttering the pans, no clean-up and they can be purchased at the groucery store for 59 cents -- and they're eco-friendly too! Today I made blueberry muffins with wheat germ, oil bran and other good ingredients and the paper cups did the job.

Susan from Massachusetts
I have the muffin cups and like them also. I was a bit surprised that they didn't fall down when batter was added. But they didn't!
I bought an 8x8 square pan and I CANNOT get the grease stained surface clean. I have scrubbed it with the green 3M scrubbie and no luck. I don't think I can even donate it to Goodwill. They wouldn't take it with it looking like that. Is there some way to get the ickies off?
On PBS's America's Test Kitchen, they also found the pastry brush the number one pick over a bunch of pastry brushes. Two out of how many offerings on silicone kitchen gadgets? Pretty low score on those. My recommendation just buy the two hits and forget the expese of the rest.
I have read that the cheap Chinese silicone products can contain heavy metals, so I have gotten rid of everything except my Silpat and my Le Creuset spatula. I use both of them almost daily.
My mother was an Irish immigrant and made Soda Bread on a weekly basis, but always dressed it up for the holiday by adding dried fruit (usually the kind that was packaged for fruit cakes). This recipe was really a wonderful throwback to a very long time ago. Thanks.
I like the silicone muffin pans. There no harder to store then regular muffin pans and there the ony thing I can use to make egg frittatas that don't stick... and ruin the pan.
I also like you Irish muffins!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna